It’s hard to imagine being shocked at news that someone had died at the age of 97. But if there were ever a man whom you could imagine being tough enough to take Death’s scythe away from him and chase him off with it, it’s retired Brigadier General Chuck Yaeger, whose wife Victoria announced on Twitter that he had passed away Monday night. We offer our sympathy and prayers for his family.
The legendary test pilot was the personification of the term “The Right Stuff,” the title of the Tom Wolfe book and movie about the NASA space program that appropriately began its story back on October 14, 1947. That’s when Yaeger strapped in behind the controls of the rocket-propelled Bell X-1 plane nicknamed the “Glamorous Glennis” and launched the space age, becoming the first man to break the sound barrier at 700 mph. Just six years later, he was setting new records by flying at 1600 mph.
His daring test pilot accomplishments were only a part of his amazing life story, which included 64 combat missions in World War II (he was shot down once, evaded capture, and made it back safely) and returning to combat flights decades later during the Vietnam War. He was a true American hero, recipient of the highest honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an inspiration to soldiers, pilots, astronauts and every American.
You can read more about his remarkable life at the link above. And here’s a clip from “The Right Stuff,” dramatizing the moment when Chuck Yaeger piloted America into the space age by breaking the sound barrier. I hope this will make you want to watch the entire film, because it’s a humdinger of a movie.